Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Slave Lake area people will be going to Edmonton or Barrhead for chemotherapy treatments for the time being. That was the upshot of the latest meeting between the local ‘Chemo For Slave Lake’ group and a group called ‘Cancer Care Alberta (CCA).’

Chemo For Slave Lake contends that Slave Lake, as the centre of a region, should qualify as a treatment centre for chemotherapy. This would reduce the hardship of travel for those already suffering from cancer. But the CCA reps at the Oct. 22 meeting said the numbers don’t support it. Five years of data shows patients from the Slave Lake region (including High Prairie and Wabasca) amounted to about 550 patient-visits per year. The authorities require something more like 700 per year to consider a location viable as a chemo treatment centre.

Those present at the meeting bowed to that decision, but not without putting up a bit of a fight. Doug Babiy, the chair of the group, said if it’s about money, funds can be raised. He said he thinks the hospital has the staff and the willingness.

Hospital manager Keith Carlson agreed.

“I disagree with your stats,” he told the ACC presenters. “I think the study underestimates the strength of the Family Care Clinic.”

FCC manager Johan van der Nest was on board with that.

“We can be open seven days a week,” he said. “At no time in the FCC will you have (only) a single nurse. There are multiple nurses and physicians available every day.”

But try as they might, the local participants at the meeting were not able to swing the thing in their favour. The best they ended up with was a promise to stay in touch, and to see if there are other ways of supporting cancer patients.

“We will work with you,” said Liz Ross of CCA.

Babiy’s closing remark was: ‘You’re not saying ‘no.’ You’re saying ‘maybe.’ We’ll do anything we can to further the cause.”

What the group did get was a commitment from CCA to consider a business case for chemo in Slave Lake, which Babiy says is the next on the agenda for Chemo For Slave Lake.

Doug Babiy